A Success Story: Transitioning from VISTA to Full-time Employee

May 23, 2016
Paul Rebman
Paul Rebman

Paul Rebman was a VISTA with the 2014-15 CHC cohort. He served with the Minneapolis Health Department’s Youth Violence Intervention Program and was hired on after his VISTA term. We asked him about the transition from VISTA member to full-time employee and his advice for other VISTA members on finding post-VISTA employment.

  1. What projects did you focus on during your VISTA term with the Minneapolis Health Department?

As a VISTA, I focused on the Minneapolis Health Department’s Hospital Based Violence Intervention Project, MYVIP. This program is designed to connect violently injured young people with social support and a trained violence intervention specialist while they are still in the hospital. While this was my main focus, I was able to help out with a lot of other projects, including a capacity-building institute, the implementation of a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum, and a qualitative research project with youth in Minneapolis.

    2.  What is your current work with the Minneapolis Health Department?

In my new role, I am working as a Research Assistant for a project focused on identifying policy and structural barriers for low-income, unmarried fathers to be involved in the lives of their children. We know from a lot of research that having involved fathers leads to a whole range of better outcomes for moms and babies (this result is true for any two parent families regardless of gender of the parents). This is actually taking the problem of youth violence even a little bit more “upstream” as we know involved fathers help prevent adolescent violent behavior. However, there are policies that make it really hard for low-income, unmarried dads to stay involved even if they want to. My role right now is to help conduct interviews with moms, dads, and key informants to better understand this issue.

     3.  Were there any particular skills you learned or accomplishments from your VISTA term that you think helped in the decision to hire you as a full-time employee?

A few of the biggest skills I got out of my VISTA year were community engagement, project management, and research/evaluation skills. My community engagement experience is especially relevant to my new role. As a VISTA, I did different work engaging with community members, service providers, and other professionals that taught me a lot. I learned how to meet people where they work/live, explain what I’m asking of them clearly and consistently, and have the flexibility and organization to follow up with people as they get busy. A lot of my position right now focuses on recruiting people to participate in our study and these skills are definitely helping me out.

      4.  How was your transition from VISTA to full-time employee in the same organization?

It has been really great to be able to stay with the same organization and work as a full-time employee. It feels very different from being a VISTA. I now have a little more responsibility, which means I have a bit less flexibility and a bit more on my plate. It’s a trade off, as it is nice to have the increased responsibility but it means I don’t have as much time to take advantage of all the professional development opportunities I had as a VISTA. It is also less stressful knowing that I won’t necessarily have to find another job after one year.

      5.  What advice would you give to VISTA members who would like to be hired on at their organizations after their VISTA service year? Do you have general advice for finding employment after VISTA?

During your VISTA year, take advantage of all of the opportunities that come your way. Offer to help out with everything you can that is related to your assignment description. I probably found myself saying “If you need any help with that, just let me know” about every other day. I think this was important for me in securing my new position. It showed my ability to take initiative and be flexible and it exposed me to working with more people and different projects. This was key in getting my current position as I’m now working in a different capacity and with a different division of the health department.

Also, if you don’t know what you want to do after VISTA, take advantage of the people in your organization and professional networks to talk about what they do and how they got there. Doing so helped me out a ton in terms of figuring out what kind of job I wanted after VISTA. Having a more solid goal helped me think about what jobs to apply to and what skills I wanted to get out of my post-VISTA job.

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